New friends and memorable moments

When I first started traveling alone many years ago, I always tried to meet people so I didnt have to spend time alone. It took alot of energy and took away alot of the pleasure of traveling while I was searching for these new friends. It wasn’t until several years back, that I learned how to love traveling alone.When I was able to enjoy my own company, I was more selective about the new friends I encountered on my adventures.
The last three months,as I traveled through Bangladesh and India,I was lucky to cross paths with many interesting,clever and entertaining people,some of whom I hope will stay in my life. As I describe them to you, I will be remembering them for myself.
Sumon was the first person I met when I stepped in the strange world of Bangladesh. It was almost midnight when I arrived, and as I exited customs, I found him holding a card with Jaime Prestige guest house;this was to become during  my month in Bangladesh,my home away from home.  I immediately plied him with questions about his life and why was there so much traffic in Dhaka at midnight. Within less than 24 hours,Sumon had helped me buy a mobile phone,fill it with minutes,connect with Sattar,(another very special person) and the BPKS disabled people’s organization and teach me how to get around this chaotic,polluted,strange third world metropolis. We talked about how corrupt the government and the rich people in Bangladesh were and whether he should look for a foreign girlfriend. Why not look online for a Bangladeshi girl,living in Europe or the States who wants to marry someone from her culture. I have to check back with him and see if he has had any success.
Sattar Dulal,the general manager and founder of BPKS disabled people’s organization,became another very special person in Bangladesh.. The offices of BPKS are located in the back alleys of a small district a few miles from my guesthouse. Sattar was sure it would take over an hour or more for me to find it.. Sumon found me a CGM(rickshaw) and gave the driver explicit instructions where to take me.. Within less than half hour, we arrived.. Sattar couldn’t belive it how quickly I gotten there and realized I was pretty determined. I told him I wanted to volunteer in some capacity for BPKS.  He asked “What can you do for us. Can you give me $2,000,000”.  I looked at him,wondering if he was serious and said sorry I couldnt do that. and then we both laughed. We spent many occasions sitting in his office,chatting about what he was trying to accomplish and how difficult it was to run an organization,always searching for donors and organizing staff. He sent me out in the field with two of his employees, Hannan, a human resources co-ordinator and Manik,his personal driver.  He wanted me to  understand exactly what the organization was doing. Luckily Sattar was off to Australia for conferences during the time we were off in the wilds of Bangladesh so Manik would not be missed. Hannan was very open to learn and improve his English and I was able to tell him my ideas for the people in the villages and he could translate to them. Manik loved Hindi hiphop music and could have been a great race car driver. We always told him this as he was coming within inches of a oncoming bus. We spent almost two weeks crossing the country from north to south and then up to the tea estates in the west. We ate together,they with their hands and me with my fork..I am pretty sloppy with utensils so I didnt want to make matters worse using my fingers. Hannan was always there to hold one of my cameras.. Hey I look like a photographer now he would say. Manik called me my mother because he said I was a great person like his mother. One of our last trips was to the tea area called Slyhlet,the northeast of the country near the Indian border. We had met with their regional office there and Hannan and I were upset with the poor management of the area so we called a meeting of the board of directors,who are the disabled people themselves. We had to stay in a small town nearby the evening before the meeting. My Lonely Planet promised there was a reasonably good hotel in the town as well as a tasty village restaurant. The hotel reminded me of a flop house,the restaurant was a abuzz with millions of flies all over the flithy tables. I hid in the car while the guys grabbed some street food. Dreading the hotel,I suggested we drive into the country and hang out in the tea gardens until dark. As we left the unpleasant town and entered the countryside,I saw a sign that said Tea Estate lodging. We drove up to the gate and the guard told us to drive up to the main house and ask for rooms. There were two rooms left and I told Hannan and Manik I would pay for the rooms because they were already over the BPKS budget. Our rooms faced the swimming pool and we ate roast chicken,string beans and potatoes for dinner . We all had wide smiles on our faces that evening. The sad part of this story is that after I left Bangladesh in March,I received an email from Hannan,telling me he had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He has since been in Thailand for surgery and hopefully there will be a full recovery. The surgery is costly and BPKS is trying to raise money to cover the charges. I donated some funds along with other foreign friends.
Lindsay,another memorable person,  is an American girl from the midwest who came to Dhakar with her church and was so moved by the people that she has returned several times in the last year and half to work in poor neighborhoods.  In Dhaka a poor neighborhood is worse than an American slum.. We met at my favorite hangout,Coffee World, not the best coffee but great American style desserts. Attached to the coffee bar was an English bookstore. I was wandering around the second day after my chocolate brownie and asked one of the guys working there for information. His name was Sujon and after a long conversation,(the manager was out) I asked him if he could be my guide and take me down to old Dhaka and boat terminal. Through many conversations, he told me he was studying for his masters degree in business and was from a town 4 hours away. He had to go back there each time he had an exam. Traveling by bus in Bangladesh is not the most pleasant mode of transport. He only earned 5000 taka a month working six days a week; this is roughly $75. So each bus trip was an expense for him. Finding a job in Bangladesh is all connections so he was not very hopeful. When I said goodby,I felt sad that I couldnt do more to help.
These are just a few of the characters I met on mhy three month travel in Asia.

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